We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

When I was in Melbourne some government body or other put on a display of ‘Aboriginal culture’ in Federation Square and advertised it all over town. I guessed in advance that it would consist of a bunch of primitives sat around bashing drums while metropolitan white folk looked on as if they were visiting a zoo. Child-like art would on display wrapped in copious quantities of mumbo-jumbo. I passed by one Saturday afternoon and sure enough, that’s exactly what it was. A more patronising exhibition I couldn’t imagine, and it must have been soul-destroying for any Aborigine who aspires to be something more than a museum piece for liberal whites.

Tim Newman

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Samizdata quote of the day

There is no inconsistency here. Just as we would support a gay baker’s right to decline to convey a homophobic message, we support this Christian baker’s right to decline to celebrate a same-sex wedding. That is because Masterpiece isn’t really about religious liberty – apart from claims that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission itself treats the religious and nonreligious differently, something that concerned the swing Justice Anthony Kennedy at oral argument – but about freedom of speech.

Marian Tupy

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Samizdata quote of the day

An Engineer, a Mathematician and a ‘Climate scientist’ are each asked “what is 2 + 2?”

The Engineer says “somewhere between 3.9 and 4.1”, the Mathematician says “4” and the ‘Climate scientist’ says “what would you like it to be?”

David Bidstrup

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Sometimes you just gotta liver little

Today’s weird Guardian story is not directly political:

Surgeon admits marking his initials on the livers of two patients

A surgeon has pleaded guilty to marking his initials on the livers of two patients while performing transplant surgery.

In a hearing at Birmingham crown court on Wednesday, Simon Bramhall admitted two counts of assault by beating relating to incidents on 9 February and 21 August 2013. He pleaded not guilty to the more serious charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The renowned liver, spleen and pancreas surgeon used the gas argon, used to stop livers bleeding during operations and to highlight an area due to be worked on, to sign his initials into the patients’ organs. The marks left by argon are not thought to impair the organ’s function and usually disappear by themselves.

The 53-year-old was first suspended from his post as a consultant surgeon at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital in 2013 after a colleague spotted the initials “SB” on an organ during follow-up surgery on one of Bramhall’s patients.

As one might expect, this is being treated as a crime:

Elizabeth Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Bramhall’s actions were an abuse of the trust placed in him by the patients.

“It was an intentional application of unlawful force to a patient whilst anaesthetised,” she said. “His acts in marking the livers of those patients, in a wholly unnecessary way, were deliberate and conscious acts on his part.”

But not everyone agrees.

Following reports of Bramhall’s suspension, his former patient Tracy Scriven told the Birmingham Mail that the surgeon should be immediately reinstated. “Even if he did put his initials on a transplanted liver, is it really that bad? I wouldn’t have cared if he did it to me. The man saved my life,” she said.

She has a point. As was discussed here yesterday there is a push (it’s called a “consultation” but no one is in any doubt what the desired answer is) for England to follow the example of Wales and institute a system in which unless a person objects in advance to their organs being donated after death their consent will be assumed.

Why, then, should Mr Bramhall not say that he assumed that his patients were OK with him putting his graffiti tag on their livers? They didn’t sign a form objecting, did they?

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Be a trendsetter not a follower

It is always nice to be reminded that history has no direction. The Times reports,

Austria will scrap ban on smoking in restaurants, Freedom Party declares

Austria is to break with a global trend in health policy by abandoning plans to ban smoking in bars and restaurants.

Full smoking prohibition was due to come in next May but will be shelved at the insistence of the far-right Freedom Party as a condition of joining a coalition with the Austrian conservatives.

The Freedom Party (FPO), which came third in elections in October, is in talks to form a government with the Austrian People’s Party (OVP).

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the FPO, made overturning the ban, agreed in 2015, a top campaign pledge.

“I am proud of this excellent solution in the interests of non-smokers, smokers and restaurant owners,” Mr Strache, 48, a smoker who has tried to quit, said.

“The freedom to choose lives on. The existence of restaurants, particularly small ones, has been secured. Thousands of threatened jobs have been saved,” he said.

Some of the Times commenters say that their dislike of smoke is so strong that they will not be returning to Austria as tourists unless the ban is reinstated. That is their choice, although it does seem to me that their understandable preference for a non-smoking restaurant could be satisfied at a more local level than that of an entire nation.

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Samizdata quote of the day

In order to be used for transplant, the body must be fresh, undiseased and in a hospital. Presumed consent (which is not consent) will not necessarily make more of these available. That is all beside the moral argument and that one is pretty straightforward. Assuming anyone’s consent is not consent at all. It is the nationalisation of our bodies, it is the state seizing that which it does not own.

Longrider

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Labour will pave the streets of Birmingham with gold

Today the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell launched a report commissioned by the Labour Party from GFC Economics & Clearpoint Corporation Management Ltd. I have had a quick read of it, not in any detail but enough to think that you might be interested in reading it too. Here it is:

Financing Investment: Interim Report

It is called Financing Investment but it does not say much about financing investment. I suppose a report called Let’s Put The National Investment Bank And The Strategic Investment Board And A Bit Of the Bank Of England All Next Door To Each Other In Birmingham And Mention It Twenty Times is better for votes in Birmingham. They’ll be able to put out a special Birmingham edition of Monopoly with that street collecting a massive rent.

However there is more to this report than just more swanky government buildings in Birmingham. Branch offices in Glasgow and Cardiff are also promised. And this caught my eye:

There is a risk that the disproportionate number of technology companies in London and the South East will increase, exacerbating regional inequality.

You hear that, South East? Only in Labourland is an increase in the number of technology companies in one area seen as a “risk” in itself.

But that is a mere taster. On page 47 we begin to reach the meat of the proposal. Rejoice! There is to be something called a Strategic Investment Board.

The Strategic Investment Board will sit at the heart of the economy, coordinating R&D, commercialisation and information flows

We learn that

3. The Strategic Investment Board will draw on science and technology to devise comprehensive policy proposals for investment. There will be an emphasis on R&D investment. Private sector R&D will not be crowded out. It will be encouraged.

It is nice to be reassured that private sector R&D will not be crowded out, but the very fact that the possibility is mentioned does rather imply that public sector R&D will be crowded in. Who will be deciding who gets this “investment”, and what reason have we to suppose they would be good at it? The answer is not reassuring:

5. Scientists and researchers at the cutting edge of their fields will be appointed to senior advisory positions. The Strategic Investment Board will also seek the advice of trade unionists, businesses and leading industrialists.

Ah, “getting round the table”, I remember that. I was too young to understand all the hoo-hah about Barbara Castle’s In Place of Strife in 1969, but I can just about remember the series of increasingly ineffectual “Solemn and Binding agreements” and “Concordats” agreed between Labour governments and the unions over beer and sandwiches at No.10 as the 1970s wore on. None of them stuck.

(Edit: in the comments Sam Duncan says, “So they’re basically digging Neddie and the NEB out of the dustbin and bunging them in the microwave for a couple of minutes, then? That’s the Great Corbyn Plan?”)

On page 48 it says,

The Strategic Investment Board will scrutinise and advise the monetary and financial policy authorities as banks shift from unproductive lending to innovative companies.

That all sounds very nice, but why is a bunch of scientists, businessmen and trade unionists moonlighting from their proper jobs expected to be able to tell what lending is unproductive? While lending to “innovative companies” can turn out well, it is not a game for amateurs. God only knows that the banks have not always done a good job, but at least it was their job. And it is strange to see the socialists display such faith that the capitalist exploiter will act for the common good and not, for instance, draw an enormous salary augmented by backhanders to ensure that companies in which he has a well-disguised interest get all this luverly investment.

On page 49:

We suggest that the Strategic Investment Board has six permanent committee members plus two
representatives, one each from the National Investment Bank and the publicly-controlled RBS. This
will ensure a consistency between the polices of the National Investment Bank/RBS and the Bank of
England.

Wha-wha-what is the Royal Bank of Scotland doing there? They’re not thinking of using money deposited by the public with RBS for this “investment”, are they? Investment specifically directed at innovative companies? That might, er, cause queues to form outside RBS branches on the morning of a Labour election victory.

I have left the biggest question, where the money is to come from – because I really don’t think RBS can cover it all – as an exercise for the reader. The Labour party answer is “From the National Investment Bank, stupid.”

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Samizdata quote of the day

People talk and think about jobs like they are things. Like you can possess one, lose one, or like you need to go get one from someone. So they go to job boards looking for the people who are giving away jobs. They go through the societal rituals that are expected of job seekers. But they are making a fundamental mistake–because jobs are not things, they are abstractions.

Getting lost in this abstraction causes a lot of pain and confusion. Seeing past the abstraction lets you see the countless opportunities you have available to you.

A job is an abstraction to describe a relationship between one person and another individual or group of people that agree to a certain type of ongoing trade. To get a job, you don’t need someone to create it and give it to you; you simply need to convince someone that you can make them more money than you cost.

Ryan Ferguson

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Samizdata quote of the day

For at least half a century, nearly every secondary school pupil and university student in Britain has learnt about the evils of Nazism and Fascism, and the crimes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. Most young people have also been taught something about the evils of apartheid in South Africa, Western colonialism, and white racism in the United States. One enormously important subject, however, has generally been missing from the education curriculum: namely, the horrendous and universally destructive nature and record of Communism.

Philip Vander Elst

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On Trump, Jerusalem and how social media makes me aware of what people really think

It is sometimes said in a disapproving sort of way that social media is bad in that it reduces social inhibitions. “You’d never say that to a person’s face”, sort of argument. It is a bit like the argument made as to why people are rude when behind the wheel of a car because, encased as they are behind metal and glass, they feel able to shout and swear at the real or alleged berk in front. (Needless to say, being the brilliant driver I am, all those who receive my ire deserve it.)

On places such as Facebook, which I use, I occasionally see people whom I thought are quite reasonable people write or say things that make me think again. A case in point is the recent outpouring of rage over the fact that Donald Trump had decided that the US embassy should be shifted to Jerusalem. Apart from anything else, he is merely executing on a policy that had been approved of, in a bi-partisan vote, in Congress back when Clinton was in office. But, my FB room-mates shout, he should have not done this, he is stoking up the “Arab Street” (such people have, I suspect, never been to the ME), and this shows he is reckless, silly, has an orange face, yada fucking yada. And in one case, an acquaintance went into “the Jews running Congress and American politics mode”, making various references to Trump’s relations, his being a New Yorker (full of those ghastly people), and so on. I decided not to put the point to this FB fuckwit lest I cause a total meltdown, which is that if it is so terrible for Jerusalem to host a US embassy, with the implied recognition of said city as the Israeli capital, then why not just come out with it and say that the state of Israel should not exist at all?

A lesson learned, therefore, is that there are a lot of people out there who buy into the whole “Jewish conspiracy thing”. Now I know that not all anti-Israel people are Jew-haters, and that one can and should be able to discuss what that country does without falling down the rabbit hole of anti-Semitism. But there is, from my own impressions, considerable overlap between the two. And while not infallible as a guide, I take the view that people who dislike or fear Jews, and Israel, are fuckwits, and people whose judgement should be regarded with scorn.

So Donald Trump, thankyou for clarifying a few doubts I have had about certain people I know out there. I am beginning to think, what with the tax bill, the Supreme Court, agency and most cabinet picks, and now this, that the man is actually proving to be a decent POTUS, and a lot less scary than I had previously thought. All he needs to do is turn down the Twitter feed, but maybe enraging people in the way he does is precisely part of what makes him effective, even if it upsets our fastidious tastes. As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has remarked, he’s even got “liberals” talking about the separation of power and Constitution again.

Here is an article by John Podhoretz on the issue of the embassy.

Key quote:

The idea that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital has been a global pretense for decades, including here in the United States. It’s a pretense because Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital from the moment the new country secured a future by winning a bloody war for independence waged against it by Arab nations after they rejected the UN partition of the old British mandate into a Jewish state and an Arab state.

 

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Discussion point: the Brexit deal

Brexit: ‘Breakthrough’ deal paves way for future trade talks

In the spirit of 1066 And All That, is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

N.B. Do not attempt to answer more than one question at a time. (An exception may be made for the Irish Question.)

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Container Ship Youtuber

Youtuber JeffHK works on container ships and his channel is very useful when one’s children ask questions about how stuff gets moved around the world, not to mention just fascinating in general.

One of his videos lists the advantages of working at sea. Paying less tax is among them. He expresses amazement that the income tax rate in the UK can be as high as 45%.

I heard in the UK if you earn more than 151 thousand pounds a year you get taxed 45%. That’s crazy! That’s half of what you earned; your blood, sweat and tears going into someone else’s pocket.

Another video lists disadvantages. Among them: regulations.

Every year new regulations come into force and sailors, we have to fetch out money for endorsements on new certificates, new licenses, more paperwork, more checklists, new codes, new safety procedures, new environmental laws […] We are paying to get certified for what we have been doing for hundreds of years. It’s almost like the government or marine schools are milking us for money. There’s no end to that.

But never mind the politics. Don’t miss the Suez Canal timelapse, the container loading explanation, or the ship tour. The production is of a high quality with good editing and judicious use of drone footage.

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